From fun to finances, more people are finding a reason to use bicycles

Monday, July 28, 2008
KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Darren Jones, center right, scored a goal late Thursday, July 24, 2008, at Arena Park as Cape Bicycle and Burritoville squared off in a bicycle polo match. Teams were made up of four bikers with homemade mallets for hitting a small soccer ball. Strategies varied widely from strong hits to going too slow for any other riders.

Steve Schaffner lost 80 pounds, Allen Gathman traveled from Pocahontas to New Orleans, and on Thursdays people gather at Arena Park to play a different style of polo.

These bicyclists say they have made biking a part of their weekly schedules because it's healthy, relaxing and fun.

Owners of Cape Girardeau's two bike stores, Cyclewerx and Cape Bicycle Cycling and Fitness, say they can tell more people are starting to bike because they are bringing in older-model bikes to have them fixed. John Dodd, the owner of Cyclewerx, attributed this to people discovering the health and economic benefits of cycling.

"It's gaining speed, now," Dodd said about Cape's bicycle culture.

Eric Gooden, the owner of Cape Bicycle for 30 years, said the current bicycle culture in Cape isn't as big as it was from 1974 to 1975. But he said the culture has steadily attracted more riders as long as he's owned Cape Bicycle.

Schaffner has made cycling a part of his life for health reasons. Every day, weather permitting, he rides from his house to Central High School, the junior high and the middle school, where he works as the orchestra teacher. He attributes this trip, which is almost 12 miles, as the reason he has lost 80 pounds over the last four years.

"Everywhere I go, it's the 'Whee!' factor," Schaffner said, referring the joy he experiences when he rides. "You get some fresh air and you get to go outside."

KIT DOYLE ~ kdoyle@semissourian.com Steve Schaffner rides to work each day at Cape Junior High School. A trip to Europe several years ago peaked his interest in biking, and he's been pedaling since.

When he first started riding to lose weight in 2001, he said, it wasn't easy. He didn't ride the bike hard or often enough to lose weight, he said.

His riding habits changed three years later when he watched the Tour de France on TV and saw the intensity of riders.

"I wanted to be able to do that," Schaffner said.

He said better eating habits, such as eating healthier food and smaller portions, added to his efforts on his bike.

Schaffner said the health benefits of biking have helped him play violin with less tension and teach class with more energy.

Schaffner has also saved money by driving less and riding more. From 2005 to 2006, he drove 12,000 miles; from 2006 to 2007, he drove 5,000 miles; and in the last year he hasn't topped 3,000 miles. He records his miles traveled every year in August.

Since 2005, Gathman, a professor of biology at Southeast Missouri University, has enjoyed summer bike rides that last for many days.

"I enjoy riding more than sitting in the car," Gathman said. "I like going outside."

This summer he spent eight days on a 550-mile bike ride with his daughter around the top of Lake Michigan. Last summer he biked alone for nine days on a 730-mile ride from his home in Pocahontas to Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. In 2006 he participated with thousands of other riders in a weeklong 472-mile bike ride across Iowa.

Gathman attributes a feeling of independence and solitude to long bike rides. He said the practice helps him mentally escape the hustle and bustle of work life.

Adding to the cycling culture in Cape Girardeau, bike-polo players have begun to compete on area baseball fields. Beginning last year with five regular bike-polo players, a steady group of nine to ten players now comes to Arena Park once a week to play.

Paul Embree, who now lives in St. Louis, began playing bike-polo in Cape Girardeau in spring 2007 as a project for a physical education class he took at Southeast.

"I knew some riders who were into goofy styles of riding," Embree said. "We tried it out once and had a blast."

Once a week, a group that includes a doctor, a pharmaceutical representative, workers from Burritoville and Cape Bicycle, and students studying dietetics and sports management at Southeast come show off their bike-polo skills.

"We probably have a guy playing with 10 plaques on the wall at his office," said Nathan Quance, a regular bike-polo player.

Before the start of a game two teams are formed and a small soccer ball is placed in the center of the field. At the call of "Polo!" one player from each side rides toward the ball. Teammates ride along, all carrying homemade polo sticks in hand, trying to hit the ball through the opposing team's goal, formed by two orange cones.

"We definitely sport our game faces," Embree said. "It's another spin on cycling."

adohogne@semissourian.com

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